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|Volume 12 |Issue 04| January 25, 2013 ||
A Humbling Experience
YAHIA MD AMIN
For a many of us, winter means a lot of things: rooftop barbeque with friends, heavenly sleep under the warmth of a blanket, checking out our new jackets, 'pithas' for breakfast, 'adda' with friends while sipping on a cup of hot tea and a welcome relief from humidity and the scorching weather of Dhaka. But for a lot of people, in fact a very significant number of people in Bangladesh, winter just amount to misery upon misery. To the never ending list of hardship of these people, just add survival in bone chilling cold with a very scanty set of clothes. The extremities of our living standards are truly tragic. And it is not about a lack of resources.
Sometimes the privileged few in the country lead a delusional life. Otherwise, how is that we are busy with the seasonal wedding marathons, barbeques, and what not when millions stand helpless in the harsh winter. Is it because of our lack of interaction and exposure to these people? Or are we just arrogant, irresponsible and willingly blind? You see, if you are a Muslim like me, we as a community have monumental responsibilities towards these people. Our wealth is not something that we earned only because of out hard work and that we can squander in any way we wish. No. As Muslims we need to understand that wealth is a blessing from God, and a test simultaneously.
We should be spending our wealth into helping these people as much as we can. Many of us, who do get a sense of responsibility, did donate a lot of money to winter clothes distribution campaigns. What is even better is to be physically involved in the distribution projects. This way we are more in touch with the poor, and it gives us bigger sense of responsibility and a more realistic understanding of life. So on that understanding, we headed towards Bhola with a handful of friends and a few hundred blankets.
Throughout the journey, you can sense the gradual detachment to the scenes of Dhaka. It is almost overwhelming at times. The weather gets colder, and the fog thicker. When the launch touches down, you struggle to embrace the vast open spaces as compared to the concrete jungle known to us as Dhaka. And the cold. The Dhaka weather almost feels like summer.
Leapfrogging the unimportant details, the distribution activity was a real eye opener. The inexplicable challenges that some of the poorest people of our country face everyday just to survive will strike you off balanced. The experience leaves one dumfounded and humble, and gives you a feeling of eternal thankfulness to enormous blessings that God has bestowed upon some of us. The strength of these feelings really comes from meeting the people you are distributing the blankets to.
In your everyday existence, you usually meet people with a promising future. They are well off, educated, and are mostly looking forward to the mysteries of the future to unfold. To the people we met, any sorts of lofty aspirations were too exclusive to even dream of. I met an old woman, shriveling in the cold with barely the strength to stand, who waited for a long time in the queue just to get a blanket. Yes, a Tk 300-blanket. Tk 300 is too insignificant to a lot of us. Then we met someone who lost his house four times to land erosion. It is important to mention that the houses he lost, was the only significant asset that he owned. How can we indulge in our luxuries so effortlessly while millions are living in abject poverty on your own backyard?
The whole experience was heartbreaking, humbling and greatly enlightening. Those who are blessed and capable of bringing about positive changes to the others should definitely get involved in campaigns and projects aiming to help the disadvantaged. Most importantly, we should be grateful for the uncountable blessings that God has given us– blessings that are not meant to devour selfishly, but to spread around.